everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Freecycling

On the weekend, I read an article about Freecycle. And I thought it sounded like an interesting idea, so I dug a little deeper. In case you hadn’t heard of it either, consider this your cheat sheet guide to this very cool global phenomenon…

Freecycle logo

According to their website, The Freecycle Network is made up of 5,119 groups with over 6.6 million members around the world. It’s a nonprofit organisation (the site groups are administered by volunteers), designed to help people reuse stuff that they don’t need by giving it to others and keeping it out of landfill. Kind of like swapping stuff with the neighbours in your village. If you actually still spoke to the neighbours in your village.

Their motto is ‘changing the world one gift at a time’, which sounds pretty great to me. And when you check out the groups in your local area, you can see the huge range of stuff that people are either giving or wanting – from shredded paper for Christmas hampers to specific books to chickens to horse poo. And a lot of people want old bathtubs for their gardens, it seems.

But like any community, there are some scammers around. One of the groups that I looked at warned about a FREE PUPPY SCAM!!! and another cautioned members to beware of people charging extortionate delivery charges for their bomby old televisions. So be careful – it’s a jungle out there. And if you need a machete to get through, I think I know of a Freecycler that can hook you up…

Anyways, I highly recommend that you have a look at the Freecycle site and check out groups in your local area. Just be sure to balance out your giving and your taking, lest you end up with a backyard full of old bathtubs and a bedroom full of shredded paper. And a starring role on that show Hoarders.

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Treats from Ireland

I wrote last week that some friends from Ireland were visiting Australia for the Lions tour, spending this past week here in amazingly sunny Sydney. I haven’t yet processed my feelings about the match on Saturday night, where I was the lone little Wallabies supporter in a block of hundreds and hundreds of Lions fans, but I’ll try to write about it another day.

Anyways, my lovely friend Gavan brought me out a bag of treats from Ireland as an international gesture of goodwill. I’m not sure who started this crazy contest – I have been known to send over hideous Austrayan goodies (mostly to remove them from our shops) from time to time – but this bag o’ crap from Dublin’s finest tourist store has really raised the bar. In fact, it has inspired me to put together a Diddly Dee Oirish showbag for next year’s Easter Show in Sydney. It will go off like a leprechaun in a pot of gold, so it will.

Here are some pics of my gifts – do let me know if you would like to borrow anything…

The bag. Off to a very good start.

The bag. Off to a very good start.

Complete with a tin whistle playing leprechaun, if you don't mind.

Complete with a tin whistle playing leprechaun, if you don’t mind.

They really would work with any outfit.

They really would work with any outfit.

Roll on, 17 March...

Roll on, 17 March…

Probably not so lucky if you actually eat them.

Probably not so lucky if you actually eat them.

An unexpected warning on the bag of ShamRock lollies.

An unexpected warning on the bag of ShamRock lollies.

I’ll stop there, even though I’ve only covered maybe half of the contents of the bag. But you get the idea. Although, I do need to add one more highlight – I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Tayto, the Irish crisps that backpackers miss so much that they have their family post out boxes to them (well, they used to, until an entrepreneur started importing them to Australia and charging extortionate prices for a taste of home). Anyways, the flagship flavour is cheese & onion and they’re pretty much a national treasure. So, what else to do but release a limited edition treat – embed the chips into chocolate bars and sell them to the general public. I’ve tried it and it’s pretty much as horrible as you might imagine: some things were just not meant to be, Tayto.

Limited edition indeed.

Limited edition indeed.

Huge thanks to my friend Gavan for this bag of treats – I don’t know that I’ve ever had such a thoughtful/generous/funny/scary/sickening gift all in one bag. Now the stakes have been raised, I’m off to find some hideous Australiana to further advance global cultural understanding and tolerance. Or something like that.

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Faux Fashion

Another fab.com find today – this time, one for the fashionistas. Well, not quite. They’re clothes, sure, but they’re a little bit different and most certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Faux Real make ‘photorealistic apparel’. Uh huh. According to their website, Faux Real shirts are for people who ‘want to stand out from the everyday fashion crowd’. When a normal t-shirt just doesn’t cut it anymore, you might need to upgrade to a Faux Real ‘outfit’ t-shirt instead. I can’t really tell you any more, I need to show you some of the pics from the website for you to see for yourself…

Look out, little ladies. It's the Faux Real 70's vest for toddlers.

Look out, little ladies. It’s the Faux Real 70’s vest for toddlers.

From the bassinet to the boardroom, this Faux Real romper suit shows that your baby means business.

From the bassinet to the boardroom, this romper suit shows that your baby means business.

Surely every man needs a faux bacon suit. Surely.

Surely every man needs a faux bacon suit. Surely.

And here's the 'Beauty Queen' shirt for the ladies. BYO kooky glasses.

And here’s the ‘Beauty Queen’ shirt for the ladies. BYO kooky glasses.

But this one really baffles me - a faux camping shirt. Should be perfect for the Camino.

But this one really baffles me – a faux camping shirt. I’m getting one for the Camino.

You can check out these and other very quirky shirts at the Faux Real website here.

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Special gift ideas for your Valentine

Now that the festive season is out of the way, it’s time to move on to the next exploitable holiday in the calendar – Valentine’s Day. Now let me just state for the record that, even though I don’t have a Valentine (waaa waaa), I still think that the idea of celebrating love and giving thoughtful trinkets is a fabulous thing. But, I fear that many poor saps get trapped by savvy marketers and become convinced that if you love someone, then this is the day you must step up and show them. Preferably on a grand scale and the more public the declaration of love, the better.

I do worry about those romantic fools, hoodwinked into spending too much money on questionable jewellery, giant I WUV U bears, scent-less roses that have magically tripled in price, dinner accompanied by the soothing sounds of the piano accordion. That sort of thing. Never fear though, I have scoured etsy and come up with some great gift ideas for your Valentine – gifts that won’t break the bank, cause offence or mis-spell love. You’re welcome.

Firstly, from Crafted Cookies, a pair of very cute sweet treats for Valentines. Or for police to give to criminals out on parole. Or for teachers to give the naughtiest kid in the class. Or for creepy Valentines-from-a-distance (I think the technical name is ‘peeping toms’) to give the object of their affection. It just works on so many levels.

I love you. So look out.

I love you. So look out.

I actually really like this next one, a cool necklace from A Charmed Impression. But I do have to question their chosen model in the promo pic, given its inclusion in the Valentine’s Day collection…(To be fair, Katie’s necklace does appear to feature an ‘S’ for Suri (I presume it’s not for Scientology, anyways) rather than a ‘T’ for Tom.)

Valentine Schmalentine says Joey from Dawson's Creek.

Valentine Schmalentine says Joey from Dawson’s Creek.

And another idea that I like, but question their photo choice for the Valentine’s Day collection, comes from Jubile Jewel. They are sterling silver initial earrings, which make a lovely romantic gift for your special someone. But could result in some mis-communication or a fight if your beloved happens to be called Fred Ulrich. Or Fanny Underwood.

Not quite the romantic sentiment you were after...

Maybe not quite the romantic sentiment you were after…

Another interesting gift for your sweetheart comes from Plantables & Paper. It’s a love letter kit, which apparently provides you with 50 small cards with a typed intro on each, to get your romantic sonnets flowing. Although this one in the picture does feel more like it’s leading you to put an expiry date on it. If that’s something that you want to convey, maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t quite the time to do it. But when the time is right, if you use this card, it will definitely seem like a smoother delivery of a much nicer message. Of course, I take no responsibility if that presumption turns out to be false and you sustain an injury.

15 February 2013. At least.

15 February 2013. At least.

And I couldn’t resist sharing this personalised ceramic mug from 39 Cups. Perfect for a Valentine who’s a bit of a geek or a word-nerd. And we all know there’s nothing AT ALL wrong with that. It’s a word search, hand-painted onto a mug, with four words circled – your Valentine’s name, plus three words that describe them. Please note that each of the three descriptive words has to be 10 letters or less though, so it’s too bad if your man is really multi-faceted, or your lady is simply extraordinary. 

This mug appears to be for Ashley - a sexy & stylish skater. Uh huh.

This mug appears to be for Ashley – a sexy & stylish skater. Uh huh.

Well, that’s plenty of Valentine’s Day fodder for you right there, so I’ll stop now. But I do reserve the right to publish some more pre-Valentine’s Day posts if I discover other gifts for your consideration. Or if you find any true gems that I can share, please email me!

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The Simple Things

Yesterday, I discovered a new magazine after looking at a photo on Instagram. It’s pretty amazing how that can happen, I reckon. Someone snaps something or mentions something, it catches your eye and when you investigate further, you discover something very cool that you would otherwise never have found. That’s why I like to read blogs and magazines and subscribe to a range of email newsletters – you never know when you’re going to come across something amazing in the virtual world that will make a nice addition to your life in the real world.

And so it was for me yesterday, when I found The Simple Things magazine. It’s a relatively new mag from the UK and its tag line is “Celebrating the things that matter most…” – sounds like a good idea to me. It’s pretty to look at (even the version for ipad) and amongst the beautiful photography, there’s cooking and design and craft and travel and all sorts of stuff. Even a “How to” guide to cutting your own hair. (Although that particular piece closes with the line, If it’s an absolute mess, reach for a vintage headscarf and remember hair grows half a millimetre a day. Caveat emptor.)

There are some interesting articles – although the seasons are out of whack, which you only really notice when you’re reading about preparing for a snowy Christmas in the UK and outside it’s a humid Sydney day with a thunder storm threatening. And they have recipes for cocktails, which makes any magazine a winner in my book. You can even download a free ‘The Simple Things’ soundtrack here.

Anyways, I don’t want to sound like their marketing team, but thought I’d share it in case my cup of tea is your cup of tea too. Or if this cup of tea might suit someone on your Christmas gift list. In a nice floral cup, with some chocolate biscuits on the side. Obviously. The Simple Things website is here if you want to have a look.

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EverydaySparks Gift Idea #374 – Hey, Pillow Face

Now this is a gift I really like. At the risk of spoiling this year’s Christmas present surprises, I can think of so many faces for so many cushions for so many of my family and friends – I reckon it would be a real hit. And they deliver all around the world, so it’s a far cheaper way of sending the kids to stay with Granny in Iceland. I first saw PillowMob featured on a Fab.com sale. Their tag line is “All your face are belong to us”, which sounds like the kind of slightly dodgy translation more commonly found on a Hello Kitty pencil case. Although these ‘pillow faces’ are made in Seattle, Washington.

You can choose from the range of cushions featuring animals, food items or random strangers – or you can upload your own photo and the clever folk at PillowMob will turn the face (or whatever) into a cushion. Like so…

 

 

Copyright issues permitting, I’m thinking of furnishing my apartment with a Liam Neeson, a Don Draper, a cupcake, a bowl of gelato and maybe a Sharpei puppy, because they’re funny. The possibilities are endless – and imagine the fright you could give someone by sending them a giant cushion of your face in the post…I’m off to write my list – if you’re on that list and you read this blog, please act surprised when you receive your pillow face! You can check out the Pillow Mob website here.

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Dear Santa…

Well, it’s coming up to that time again. The time when the festive season and goodwill towards all take a backseat to the business of shopping. And that fabulous department store in the USA, Neiman Marcus, has just released its 2012 Christmas catalog. And if any of the ‘2012 Fantasy Gifts’ are on your wishlist, then I think you’d better write your letter to Santa as soon as possible – he’ll need time to re-mortgage his house, sell off all the other toys and lease out the reindeer. The catalog features some great gift ideas for everyone – here are some of my highlights…

Like the JetLev R200’s creator, you’ve dreamed about jetpack flight since first seeing it in the movie Thunderball. Finally, technology has caught up with fantasy! One part sci-fi, three parts British secret service agent, and 100 percent pure adrenaline rush, your water-propelled jetpack is about to send your spirits—and your self—soaring. Excitement builds as you take to the skies and experience the rush of personal flight. It’s a beautiful day for adventure. So, strap yourself in, engage the throttle, and up, up, and away you go!

A jetpack for only $99,500? Crazy, right?!

Leaping lizards! Your stomach is doing cartwheels as you wait in the wings for your cue. A nervous smile spreads across your face as you realize THIS IS IT! You made it to The Great White Way! And soon, you’ll be taking the stage in one of theater’s most beloved plays, ANNIE: The Musical. The stage manager gives you the nod, and you step into the spotlight. Your role as a walk-on performer? To help the adorably good-natured orphan and her canine companion teach the world that perseverance and unwavering hope can change lives. After your curtain call, you’ll sit down with one of the show’s producers for a celebratory five-star meal.

Only $30,000 to appear in a musical with children and animals? Merry Christmas!

Dawn breaks. The hens descend from their bespoke Versailles-inspired Le Petit Trianon house to their playground below for a morning wing stretch. Slipping on your wellies, you start for the coop and are greeted by the pleasant clucking of your specially chosen flock and the site of the poshest hen house ever imagined. Your custom-made multilevel dwelling features a nesting area, a “living room” for nighttime roosting, a broody room, a library filled with chicken and gardening books for visitors of the human kind, and, of course, an elegant chandelier. The environment suits them well as you notice the fresh eggs awaiting morning collection. Nearby, you pick fresh vegetables or herbs from your custom-built raised gardens. You’ve always fancied yourself a farmer—now thanks to Heritage Hen Farm, you’re doing it in the fanciest way possible!

$100,000 so my chickens can live in a Versailles-inspired house with a library and chandelier? Yes please!

You can check out the other must-have gifts in the 2012 Fantasy Catalog here. The ‘normal’ Christmas catalog also features gifts for under $250, if you must.

I’m off to write my list now…

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Worth Noting

Anrol Designs are a Melbourne-based outfit that appreciate the quirky. They have licensed the work of the clever folk at Dear Blank Please Blank and come up with some notebooks that made me smile, so I thought I’d share them with you. I’d put these in the funk-tional gift category: surely everybody can use another notebook in their collection. I have quite a large collection of notebooks myself – I still have grand plans of filling them with story ideas, business ideas, website ideas, shopping lists, gift lists, lists of my enemies…those kinds of things. And I’m a sucker for cool stationery. I was also a star procrastinator when studying – I could spend hours sharpening all of my pencils and testing all of my pens, then re-arranging my desk drawers by colour and spring cleaning my wardrobe, before I’d finally settle down to start writing an essay. As if all that re-organisation could somehow help me to write more convincingly about something I still didn’t quite understand. Kinda like Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams. And no, I’ve never seen that movie, but I do hope that analogy makes sense. So it is with the notebook – once you have one that looks great, the amazing ideas will surely flow. Anyways, here are some of my favourites from the collection:

(Ok, this one is a card & not a notebook.)

(Alright, another card.)

(Yes, this one is a canvas. Promise there are some notebooks for sale too.)

You can check out the range of notebooks, canvasses, t-shirts, tea towels and cards at the Anrol Designs etsy shop here and the Dear Blank Please Blank website is also worth checking out – you can even submit your own message to the world. Or to your neighbour, or whoever it is that is bugging you. One of my favourites is: Dear Nickelback, That’s enough. Sincerely, the world. That website is here.

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Plane speaking: Sunrise

Before I go on, I do want to say that I realise how lucky I am to be able to travel – especially on overseas adventures to the other side of the world. So, any criticism that I make of plane travel is in that context – a lighthearted whinge, not a serious complaint or gripe about the sad state of my world. Just so we’re clear.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, my first travellin’ post is about the craziness of long haul flights. I think I’ve mentioned before that on the height scale, I’m closer to ‘pixie’ than I am to ‘giant’, but even so, I find myself tucked into crazy yoga positions as I try to fit in my seat – the one that is to be my chair, bed, cinema, restaurant (and everything else) – for the first leg of my trip: the 14 hour flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi. At least my neighbour was lovely and just the right amount of chatty. A German chap who’d lived in Sydney for six years, he warned me early in our conversation that he had a strange eye condition as he had been hit at close range with a tennis ball a few days ago and now had a medically-induced dilated pupil to ensure that his eye didn’t explode. We joked about the inconvenience of an exploding eye while flying, but luckily he survived the flight with both eyes in order. Although I did panic when I heard a loud hissing noise – turned out he was just deflating his neck pillow. Phew.

Anyways, it was my first time flying with Etihad and they were pretty good. A feature that I particularly liked was the way they managed the ‘wake up’ part of the flight. It’s always so arbitrary – you board at a certain time and you know your arrival time at your destination, but everything in between is really just a mish mash of hours and days as you cross time zones and you’re served dinner when your brain is expecting breakfast. In the olden days, the staff used to just plunge the cabin into darkness to encourage people to sleep, then flick the bright white lights back on whenever the plane clock said it was time to wake up. Like the end of a disco, it was always a shock to the system and felt a bit like being punched in the face. Those days are gone – I appreciated Etihad’s thoughtful way of sending you to sleeep and gently waking you up with their version of sunrise / sunset. Here’s the overhead light sunrise – imagine it through bleary eyes and a frazzled mind to get a better idea of how it seemed at the time…

And to finish that first leg of the journey, here are some mugs that I noticed in a shop at the airport in Abu Dhabi, where I had a few hours between flights. Just because in my confused state, I thought these were pretty amazing.

PS, I’m posting photos on Instagram as I go – I’m everydaysparks there if you want to join me…

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Greetings from Mars

In honour of the amazing landing on Mars by NASA’s rover, Curiosity, which has brought space geeks from all across the universe so much joy, this post is dedicated to some Martian wares. Please be assured that I’m not mocking this incredible event – with my geeky tendencies, I can’t read or see enough about it. The dedication, planning and sheer brainpower that has gone into this triumph is truly mind-blowing. And of course, the rover is on Twitter (@MarsCuriosity) sending back pics of its adventures. Hopefully the reality tv show is only a few months away. Anyways, in case it’s still a while ’til we all get to visit, these can help us keep a little bit of Mars with us on Earth.

Olga Voloshchenko is a designer from Russia and she has hand made this unique felt handbag, entitled Whether there is a life on Mars. According to Olga, “the problem of cats and mice is actual always – whenever they were, even on Mars”. Let’s hope that Curiosity’s mission isn’t thrown by getting caught up in a game of cat and mouse. This bag is dynamic – you can move the creatures around the bag’s ‘craters’ for a slightly different look every day. I also love this image because of the cat burglar styling of the model displaying the bag. I definitely believe Olga’s promise: You will be unique with this bag! You can check out Olga’s bag on etsy here.

Or if you want to impress your mates with happy snaps from Mars, you might like this Mars Travel poster collection from Ron Guyatt in Canada. Of course, they’re not really happy snaps – although that Curiosity rover is so clever that photo postcards from Mars are surely only a matter of time.  These prints are a collection of the presumed highlights of Mars – the must-see tourist attractions, if you will. You know, at least until Mars Disneyland has been built.  The posters are on sale in Ron’s etsy shop here.

Perhaps a coffee table book is your way of showing that you’re in touch with what’s going on in the world. Maybe you have a pile of books, casually arranged to impress visitors – covering a range of topics from Alfafa to Zippers. If you’re on the lookout for a new book, this 1989 story might be just the thing. Hello, Mars! by Geoffrey T. Williams is the tale of a 13 year old boy who gets a pretty special birthday present – news of a move to Mars (with his parents, of course) to be among the first humans to colonise the planet. I’ve not read it, but presumably it could now be a sort of Lonely Planet guide for future travellers to Mars. There’s more info on Goodreads here if you’re interested.

And if you would like to start getting comfortable with those who will soon be your friends and colleagues, you can buy these wall decals from Christy at Graphicspaces in the USA. Pop them up around your (Earthly) home, so that by the time you relocate to Mars, it will seem like you’ve known the locals for years. You can buy these decals (and many other cool designs) from the Graphicspaces shop on etsy here.

So, now we’re ready.

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